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Mizzou Player Preview: Isiaih Mosley

Four years ago, the Tigers made the mistake of passing on a scorer in their backyard. Now, he’s home and a focal point of coach Dennis Gates’ overhauled roster.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 05 Missouri Valley Tournament - Missouri State v Drake

Over 13 installments, this series will dive deep into the 12 known scholarship players that make up the 2022-2023 Missouri basketball roster. Some installments might be more in-depth than others, if only because of the data and film available. In addition, evaluating players with multiple years of experience is more straightforward than younger peers.

The pieces read like a birds-eye scouting report. They skew more toward the offensive end of the court for two reasons. First, a player’s offensive metrics are more reliable than defensive data and less team-dependent. Second, it’s considerably easier to describe a player’s qualities with more well-known offensive statistics. As always, we encourage interaction from our readers. Please drop us a comment or find me on Twitter @DataMizzou.

In one of the best scenes from Mad Men, one of Don Draper’s many crushes astutely says, “This is America. Pick the job you want to do and be the person who does it.” Folks, my unofficial job title has become: Carnival Barker for The Isiaih Mosley Show.

The Player

Isiaih Mosley hails from Columbia’s own Rock Bridge High School. While Mosley drew sporadic interest from high-major programs, few prioritized him. The wing held off committing early, averaged 23.2 points and 6.9 rebounds, and helped lead the Bruins to a state title in 2019. Yet that performance wasn’t enticing enough — not even for a program just up Providence Road.

So, Mosley followed high school teammates Jamonta Black and DaJuan Harris — the latter of whom later opted for another school — to Missouri State. After a pedestrian freshman campaign, he exploded as a sophomore, leading the Missouri Valley Conference in scoring.

Not one to let the momentum wane, he repeated the feat last season and finished 15th nationally, earning runner-up accolades in the MVC Player of the Year race. As a result, the Bears reached the NIT for the first time in a decade and bowed out to Oklahoma. And let me tell you, I still don’t think enough people appreciate just how good he’s been. Mizzou is fortunate enough to have his services for the 2022-2023 campaign, while another year of eligibility afterward remains a technical possibility.

The Numbers

Isiaih Mosley | Senior | Combo Guard | 6-foot-5, 205 pounds

Year Team Min % Ortg Usage eFG% OR% DR% Ast% TO% FTR% FT% 2PT% 3PT%
Year Team Min % Ortg Usage eFG% OR% DR% Ast% TO% FTR% FT% 2PT% 3PT%
2022 MSU 79.4% 113.9 30.8 56.7 3.9 18.9 15.8 16.0 26.9 90.1 54.1 41.2
2021 MSU 85.8% 107.6 30.1 55.1 1.9 18.9 20.7 18.8 36.5 84.2 54.4 38.1
2020 MSU 52.8% 108.2 19.0 53.9 3.5 15.7 10.2 17.6 17.0 86.5 50.7 40.3

Letting Mosley’s stat line speak for itself would be effective, it would also rob me of my vocation.

To put some of these things into context, Mosley’s usage rate of 30.8% in 2022 ranked 38th nationally. In simplistic terms, Mosley ranked among the top 40 players in creating offense. Any offense.

Mosley shoulders a colossal offensive load. Typically, it tanks a player’s efficiency. But look at Mosley’s metrics, namely his effective-field-goal percentage and offensive ratings. I’ll save you the time of trying to analyze them. They’re elite.

Mosley also shot 54% inside the arc, 41% from 3-point range, and 90% from the line — and did it on an absurdly high volume of shots. These things do not compute for most Division I basketball players. They’re straight out of a video game played on easy mode.

These numbers are even more impressive because Mosley created most of his offense in Springfield. During the 2021-22 season, nearly 20% of his shots came from isolation plays. Mere mortals average 0.781 points per possession and make 37.5% of their shots in those situations — both of which are very poor. Mosley? He averaged 1.153 PPP and connected a 51.5% clip — better than 94% of his peers. Since 2013, just nine players have had the same number of attempts and averaged more than 1.000 PPP. The list includes the likes of Shabazz Napier, Trae Young, and Georges Niang.

In lay terms, that’s frickin’ bonkers.

It’s not just Mosley’s isolation game that is elite. Only 13 players averaged 1.000 PPP or better on all possessions and had a usage comparable to Mosley over recent years. That group includes Iowa’s Luka Garza, Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji, Marquette’s Markus Howard, Arkansas’ Mason Jones, and Oral Roberts’ Max Abmas. Mizzou’s newcomer averaged 1.059 points per play, ranking him ninth on that list.

I’m saying coach Dennis Gates might have added one of the best pure scorers in the last decade. Those guys don’t usually choose to transfer to a program going through a full-scale teardown. That makes Mosley the best kind of outlier.

Finding flaws takes a lot of work. Spot-up jumpers? Mosley knocked down 48.6% of them. Running pick-and-rolls? His efficiency ranked in the 93rd percentile nationally. Surely he’s human and struggles in post-ups? Nope. Mosley put up 1.047 PPP. He’s well above average running the floor in transition and deft as a cutter. He shot 42.9% off the catch and 45.9% off the bounce. Exactly how Gates uses Mosley will be fascinating. But Mosley’s toolbox is complete.

Still, there are some valid questions regarding Mosley’s game. How does his performance at the mid-major level scale up against an SEC schedule? I might point to him dropping 20.2 points per game last year against top-100 teams in KenPom. Yet the question is valid.

Mosley will be a target game in, game out. While his size is suitable for his position and his scoring package is elite, Mosley’s still in college because NBA scouts have questions about his athleticism. In my view, that question gets answered positively this year, but until it does…

Finally, there are some worries about his defensive capabilities. Having dug through the film, those concerns might be a tad overblown. There’s enough there to believe Mosley can be an average or better defender. He’s shown lateral quickness and active hands. So why didn’t that show up consistently in Springfield? Well, playing 35 minutes a night at 30% usage is draining. To preserve his stamina, coach Dana Ford assigned Mosley the weakest perimeter threat, which let him conserve energy. With a deeper bench and a coach who will assuredly demand defensive excellence out of every player, I see Mosley checking this box when all is said and done.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 05 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament - Valparaiso v Missouri State

The Role

There’s no mystery around whether Mosley starts. That said, just how many minutes does he log each night? At Missouri State, he routinely played 32 and would press toward 40 against more formidable opponents.

However, Gates — and the strong influence of Leonard Hamilton — has usually favored a deeper bench that keeps minutes allocations close to 28 minutes. Only two players in the Gates’ last six seasons — three at Florida State and three at Cleveland State — came close to 75% of minutes played. None eclipsed 80%. The two players: CSU’s Torrey Patton and FSU’s Terance Mann.

I envision Mosley coming close to 30 minutes per game, assuming the roster avoids terrible injury luck. And his usage rate remains high but not quite what we saw at MSU. I think it lands around 27% or 28%. Ideally, an improved roster and scheme will let Mosley shed poorly run possessions that get dumped in his lap late in the shot clock.

Those modest cuts to PT and usage will put a dent in Mosley’s scoring average. However, his efficiency still leaves me comfortable penciling him in for 16 to 18 points per night.

More than producing raw output, Mosley’s skill set is a security blanket. Often, teams might selectively hunt for buckets early in the shot clock before settling into their typical half-court system. Mosley’s value reaches its apex when a possession stalls out and the shot clock winds down. He is the late-clock offense. Desperation usually produces inefficient isolation plays. Not with Mosley. They’re more than viable. They’re attractive.

There will be nights where Mizzou’s transition and base offenses hum. But on nights when they’re glitchy, Mosley’s presence will keep anxiety in check. He’s the ideal weapon to get points late.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 09 PAC-12 Tournament - Oregon v USC Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There’s not an easy comp for Mosley. However, one “safe” projection is former Oregon guard Elijah Brown, who started his career at Butler, spent two seasons at New Mexico, and wrapped up his career in 2017-18 with the Ducks. He averaged 22 points and 19 points for the Lobos but scaled down his game in Eugene. His usage landed a 22.3%, but he still posted a 53.7 eFG% for coach Dana Altman. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 13.6 points, shooting 52% inside the arc, 36% from deep, and 93% at the line. Admittedly, that usage is lower than my forecast for Mosley but think of Brown as the floor. Mosley turns into an even more efficient Jordan Clarkson in a perfect world. Jordan had posted a 29.9% usage but managed a fairly pedestrian 48.1% eFG. Bring the former down and the latter up? You’ve got a whale of a scorer.

The Film

Under Dana Ford’s direction, Missouri State’s operated at a pedestrian pace – except when it hit the boards. Last season, almost 21% of MSU’s initial shots came within 10 seconds of snatching a defensive rebound. And the guy pushing the ball after an outlet? He’s a one-man offense.

As you can see, Mosley’s comfortable working at all three levels in early-clock situations. So, how does Mosley do it? Sometimes, it’s straightforward — like using a head fake and attacking the outside foot of a defender. That creates enough room for a step-back 3.

Manipulating pace is Mosley’s forte. Consider the second clip. Loyola Chicago’s transition defense does its job. It sprints back. The ball gets stopped, and a wall is built. There’s no obvious advantage as the Ramblers sort out cross-matches. And even when Mosley drives on Saint Thomas, it’s unclear if one will show up. But once Mosley reaches the mid-post, he comes to a jump-stop and rises for a floater.

Playing off two feet is routine for Mosley. Even when he pushes the ball deep into the paint, he manages to stop, establish his pivot foot, and go to work. Watch the third clip, where he’s cut off on the block but still gets to his fadeaway jumper. It’s not just deft footwork, either. Mosley’s decisive with his initial and counter moves.

Roughly a quarter of Mosley’s touches start at the top of the key, including the vast majority (67.4%) of his pick-and-roll possessions. But before we talk about how he ends those plays, watch how they start. MSU’s Gaige Prim was an active screener. If one didn’t work, he’d flip the angle and rescreen — anything to give Mosley options.

Again, Mosley’s game is about pace, not quickness. It’s not merely a means to let him launch an assault on the rim. The ball-screen coverage matters, and Mosley’s skilled at dissecting them.

For example, the first clip shows Illinois State deploying drop coverage. So, Mosley backs out, and Prim rescreens. This time, Mosley’s defender hangs back to “push” him toward a post defender. Yet the big slides parallel with Mosley, who reaches into his bag for a floater.

Mosley will try a similar finish in the following clip, but the setup is different. MSU’s had two guards run spacing cuts, clearing a side of the floor. As for Prim, he doesn’t roll. Instead, Mosley has what he wants – an empty side rim attack.

Later, Drake gets aggressive and has its defenders string Mosley out toward the sideline. Prim again holds his position. But look at all the space. No defender has tagged him. So, it’s an easy read and assist for Mosley.

Yet even when Drake plays drop coverage and tags Prim, Mosley still decodes the defense. In the last clip, he fires a pass to Donovan Clay in the short corner the second a help defender steps to the roller.

The scout on Mosley is easy. He’s going to use a middle ball screen, but he’s potent at the cup (1.077 PPP) and even deadlier pulling up (1.458 PPP) in the mid-range. But his dexterity as a facilitator in ball screens – 1.196 PPP for his career – can’t be undersold. It’s why you don’t worry about Nick Honor or Sean East II starting the offense and moving off the ball. Mosley’s more than capable of balancing his roles.

Now, let’s get into the spirit of the season and talk about ghosts.

The outcome of these plays is almost irrelevant. We’re focused on the setups. Keep your eyes on Prim in these snippets. Notice how he bails out before setting the screen. These are ghost screens, a fake where the would-be screener sprints away into space. Sometimes, we call it veer action. The goal: disrupt ball-screen coverage.

Why should you care?

Because it’s a perfect way to pair up Mosley and Northern Iowa transfer Noah Carter. If you read up on Carter, you know he is more than comfortable running pick-and-pops and is a hyper-efficient finisher when he slips. Well, that’s the point of ghost screens.

Meanwhile, you might have D’Moi Hodge back-cutting from the weak-side corner while Nick Honor or Sean East space out. Now imagine the outcomes. Mosley can attack. He can feed Carter slipping. And if he kicks to Honor, a shot is going up. Meanwhile, East might drive against a closeout. Or you can try to find Kobe Brown slipping into a pocket of space.

But the point of origin is deceptively simple.

Mosley doesn’t rely on a heavy dosage of side ball screens, but they’re diverse and a fun way to see the wing’s extensive finishing package. My favorite: rejecting a side pick-and-roll, flowing in a hesitation crossover, and capping it with a scoop layup after a spin move.

This is what we talk about when throwing around the term craft. Mosley’s spatial awareness, body control, and deft handle offset not being the bounciest dude in the gym. There’s such an economy of motion, too. Every step has a purpose, and he quickly gets from his pickup to a shot release.

There’s no sense going down a statistical rabbit hole and navel-gazing at Synergy data to understand what Mosley does well in isolation situations. Everything. That’s the answer. And watching him operate one-and-one is a lot like listening to Steve Wonder play the clavinet – sloppy, funky, and cool all at once. You’re hooked. And you find something new with each listen.

For me, I always get fixated on his footwork. Against Loyola Chicago, it’s merely a jump stop, but he gets the left foot in just enough to be on balance going up for the floater. In the second clip, it’s not the pirouette of a spin move. It’s the patience to wait until a help defender retreats and reverse stepping back into his jumper. And reattach your jaw after watching him thread a no-look pass to the dunker spot through four defenders with their eyes locked on him.

This is creating offense whole cloth, and MU hasn’t had a tailor like this in a while. There’s always a scenario where Mosley fails to live up to the billing. But so much of his game straddles the line between refinement and riffing that it’s hard not to feel confident about it translating.

On paper, MSU ranked 23rd for offensive efficiency last season, per KenPom. Yet, the Bears didn’t run quick-hitting sets, using up almost 18 seconds each time down. And when time dwindled, their late-clock offense was straightforward: give Mosley the rock and clear out.

They’d pitch the ball to their star and drift into a basic alignment. Prim would hang alone along the weakside baseline. Clay settled into the dunker spot. And two guards spaced to the same side, one in the corner and one on the wing.

And then Mosley would get down to business. A natural lefty with his dribble, his possession tally skews more toward that hand off the bounce, but he can finish with either of them. Anecdotally, he tends to use his spin move or reverse pivot when driving with his right hand while using a jump stop and ball fake when going left.

Mosley only attempted 26 dribble jumpers in isolation situations last season but averaged 1.442 PPS, per Synergy. That efficiency trumps what some big men offer up around the rim. So, while we usually decry late-clock pull-ups or step-backs as hero ball, it’s different when Mosley’s rising to let one go. In the games I watched, his late-clock jumpers tended to come after setting a defender up and using a side-step dribble to give him space and momentum into his shot motion.

Min %: This is simply the percentage of minutes played by a given player.
Usage %: A measure of personal possessions used while player is on the court. This includes making a shot, missing a shot coupled with a defensive rebound and a turnover.
eFG%: Same as traditional FG% with the added bonus of 3-point shots given 50% more weight to account for additional point.
OR%: The percentage of possible offensive rebounds a player gets.
DR%: The percentage of possible defensive rebounds a player gets.
AST%: Assists divided by field goals made by player’s teammates while on the court.
TO%: The percentage of personal possessions a player uses on turnovers.
FTR%: A rate which measures a player’s ability to get to the free throw line.
FT%: Free Throw shooting percentage.
2PT%: 2-point field goal percentage.
3PT% 3-point field goal percentage.